The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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Why does word-initial upsilon always have a rough breathing?

How did a rough breathing develop before all words starting with an upsilon in Ancient Greek? This is a commonly noted fact about the distribution of these sounds (or rather spellings), but I’m having ...
3
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0answers
47 views

Where do the spelling rules for French imperatives come from?

French verbs are, for historical reasons, typically grouped into three classes. The loss of final consonants in French has resulted in a serious divergence, wherein the verb conjugation system of the ...
2
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2answers
69 views

Why are placenames considered to be a valid way of identifying a substratum?

I've been reading about different methods used in linguistics, and I've been puzzled by the usage of placenames in identifying substratums in modern languages. Just because some language and its ...
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348 views
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1answer
67 views

Etymology of Greek Enualios

Enualios or Enyalius (Ἐνυάλιος) is, in Homer and other Greek authors, either an epithet of the war god Ares or else the name of a separate god, the son of Ares and brother or partner of Enyo (whose ...
5
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3answers
989 views

What word did the English use before 'because'?

Looking at the origin of the word 'because' I find it evolved from the phrase 'by cause', which was influenced by the French par cause de ; 'by cause' appeared in Middle English. What word was in use ...
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1answer
49 views

What are the different ways prosodic features of a language are represented throughout the history of linguistics?

I can name a few: 1. Tones as numbers 2. Intonation contour as a line above the sentence 3. Tones as lines above segments 4. Stress marks before stress syllables ['white house] vs [white 'house] But ...
5
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2answers
175 views

Has grammatical gender ever been observed to emerge in a language that previously had none?

Does a language exist whose older forms are known to have lacked the category of grammatical gender, and which proceeded to evolve one (perhaps from a non-gender-based system of noun classes)? Are ...
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1answer
102 views

Origin of “Eridanus”: Indo-European or Sumerian?

With the discovery and decipherment of ancient Babylonian and Sumerian texts in the 19th century a theory was offered that the name of the river constellation Eridanus, which appears in the poem ...
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3answers
155 views

The French of Shakespeare — why does it seem so modern?

In Henry V, Shakesperean English is difficult to understand (even for modern native English speakers -- at least for me) without a good amount of help. However, there are a few scenes conducted ...
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1answer
43 views

History of languages from a geographical perspective

Unfortunately I am totally unaware of the research and most of the basic methodology of Linguistics, but I am really keen on knowing more about languages because I am a passionate learner of new ones, ...
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2answers
302 views

German long “o” vs. “au”. Is there a rule?

There are common words in Germanic languages that have a long "o" vowel in the stem, and which in modern German seem to be either "o" or "au" randomly. Examples: Dutch ROOD, Swedish RÖD, German ROT ...
5
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2answers
427 views

Why do languages with such different alphabets use the same common punctuation marks?

From my experience, many languages with absolutely different alphabets colloquially use the same common punctuation marks, such as: the question mark (?), for inquiring/interrogatives exclamation ...
2
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1answer
160 views

Why does gang-nam and viet-nam both contain nam meaning south when one is in Korean the other Vietnamese?

Does anyone know why there is a character that is common to both the Koreans and the Vietnamese? Are there any other examples of these kind of similarity?
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2answers
168 views

Why “Kampuchea” → “Cambodia”?

Many place names in English are anglicizations/transliterations of their native names. Of those, many place names in Asia seem to have undergone a change over the past few decades: they've gone from a ...
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3answers
441 views

Where did Latin come from?

My understanding (supported by Wikipedia) is that Latin was the spoken and written language in Ancient Rome. Therefore, I was puzzled to read the following piece of Talmud (Gitin 80a): מאי מלכות ...
4
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3answers
238 views

What is the most recent example of a language which has split from another and become non-mutually comprehensible?

I know linguists like to say "no languages are older or younger than other languages" because they all evolved from ancient roots. With exceptions such as Nicaraguan Sign Language. So let me explain ...
7
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1answer
127 views

Why do PIE verbs have suffixes -m-, -s-, -t-, while personal pronouns have m-, t-, s-?

Usually it is assumed that in PIE the verb forms for the singular first, second, and third person are respectively -m-, -s-, -t- (cfr. Latin). The personal pronouns, instead, have the second and ...
2
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1answer
62 views

Do certain features of a languages change faster on average ?

As for historical linguistics, it is about how features of language change. I stumpled upon here about people writing about grammaticalization, tonogenesis, transformation from one typology to the ...
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226 views

Are there documented languages that evolved from tonal to nontonal?

There is a theory about tonogenesis for the Chinese language, thus Chinese had once a more complex syllable-structure and no tones. In the course of time, the syllable structure became less complex ...
3
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1answer
150 views

Origin of Russian class 6 and class 10 verbs

In Russian, class 10 contains only a handful of verbs ending in either -олоть or -ороть. On the other hand, looking at the list in Wiktionary, class 6 contains only one verbs in -рать (орать) and ...
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0answers
67 views

How polysemic on average were Chinese words around the time of the creation of Chinese characters?

If you look up a Chinese character and its meaning in classical Chinese, there is a good chance you get a long list with many different semantically unrelated meanings. Take 而 for instance, that bears ...
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57 views

Where can I learn more about the 'linguistic center of gravity' theory?

"The linguistic center of gravity principle states that a language family's most likely point of origin is in the area of its greatest diversity." (Wikipedia ...
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41 views

What stages of emergence of linguistic features are proposed among the world of scholars?

In biology, there is a simple two stages distinction of the emergence of life: Abiogenesis, the emergence of a (very simple) life form from non-living matter. Evolution, the further emergence of ...
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1answer
74 views

What are considered to be driving forces behind grammaticalization?

It is my understanding that grammaticalization is a fancy way of saying that words that contain a lexical meaning can change over time into words that gradually lose their lexical function, but then ...
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3answers
123 views

Is there a trend toward more homophones over time? What can counteract that trend?

It is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong) that many homophones develop as a result of phonemic mergers. For instance, I, like many Americans, have a "cot-caught" merger where I do not make a ...
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2answers
113 views

Examples of discrete place-of-articulation changes

Most sound changes that involve consonantal place of articulation are gradual changes between two POAs that are contiguous: for example, a velar gets gradually fronted until it becomes a palatal. What ...
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94 views

Is there a compilation of the various etymologies of the words for “library” across Europe? [closed]

The various European languages (as a geographic entity, and excluding the Uralics) present an interesting distribution in their words for "library". In particular, English, Irish, Welsh, Basque, ...
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2answers
181 views

Help me find an early Old Norse dictionary (or even a grammar)

For some time I've been looking for a dictionary of Old Norse that reflects an early situation in the language; this kind of resource has been amazingly hard to find, for some reason. Most ...
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108 views

Translation of “Beowulf”

In the brief span of time I have studied this ancient poem, particularly verses 1829-30, I have read several translations. While observing each individual rendering of the text, it was evident to me ...
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1answer
48 views

What is the word “spirituality” derived from? [closed]

What is the word spirtuality or spirit derived from? Is it's origin based on the Christian idea of the Holy Ghost, or perhaps something earlier, like how the Greeks and Romans believed in spirits? ...
4
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2answers
150 views

Is there a PIE feminising noun suffix?

I was wondering whether anyone knows the Proto-Indo-European equivalent of the Greek suffixes -ina (-ίνα) or -issa (-ισσα), or whether PIE has any different feminising suffixes that work similarly?
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1answer
109 views

Is Classical Hebrew an Indo-European language?

Is Classical/Biblical Hebrew an Indo-European language? And/or - To what extent is Classical/Biblical Hebrew an Indo-European language?
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1answer
96 views

What were allophone rules for [r] in Old English and Middle English?

I gather that [r] (trill) was realized as [ɹ] in different dialects of Old English and Middle English, but when [r] was used, was it an allophone? In other words, did [r] vary predictably with [ɹ] ...
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2answers
434 views

What is this language? Is it an ancient language?

I have recently procured an artefact, which was excavated in Yemen. At the bottom of the artefact there is engraving as shown in the picture. Some of the letters (on two sides) look like Egyptian ...
3
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1answer
84 views

Consonantal innovations in Hungarian

The Hungarian language seems to have many phonetic features uncommon in other Uralic languages- for example, phonemic voicing in its stops and sibilants and the presence of a labiodental fricative ...
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2answers
133 views

Word elements relating to ancient deities [closed]

Are there word elements, including suffixes, from Old English or other languages that have been linked to their ancient deities and the people that served them, to which these elements are still in ...
2
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1answer
132 views

Origin of world languages

I am currently setting to investigate on a subject in the history of languages, but as a self-taught outsider I am stuck before finding out some key words to start searching the Web. I want to ...
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3answers
206 views

Is there some intrinsic relationship between the nominative plural and genitive singular?

In Latin the similarity between the nominative plural and genitive singular is most striking: First: porta (Nom/Sing) and portae (Nom/Pl), portae (Gen/Sing) and portarum (Gen/Pl) Second: servus ...
3
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1answer
137 views

Jedediah → Jebediah: how?

Possibly, the name Jebediah derives from the name Jedediah. If so, then what phonological phenomenon is this an example of, and what are other examples of it?
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1answer
161 views

Why some languages have developed so difficult compared to others?

Finnish is one of the most difficult language in the world. Swedish is one of the most easiest language in the world. Finland and Sweden are geographically located next to each other. What is the ...
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2answers
257 views

Current status of the controversy on the date of Indo-European dispersion

There are two conflicting theories about the dispersion of the people speaking proto-Indo-European (by which I mean the common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, excluding Hittite and other ...
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0answers
114 views

What is known or believed about the origin of Semitic-type root-and-template morphology?

How does nonconcatenative morphology of the Semitic type (consonantal roots, vocalic templates + affixes) arise diachronically? It's pretty easy to see how a nonconcatenative inflectional system ...
7
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188 views

How diachronically stable are color terms?

I have two questions concerning words for colors, one specific and one general. First, Beekes in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (p. 181) reconstructs a PIE suffix –no- that ...
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4answers
453 views

Why is Edenics not recognized as a serious linguistic theory?

Many people know the Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel, when God broke apart the world's singular language into 70 different branches. Most linguists don't give this a second thought, or anything ...
3
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2answers
127 views

Germanic comparative grammars?

Can anyone recommend a good comparative grammar of the Germanic languages -- or, failing that, good historical grammars specifically for Old English and Old Norse? Ideally, what I want is a ...
3
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1answer
145 views

Use of forks/chopsticks and sound change?

Apparently [European] humans had an ape-like bite until relatively recently, with our top and bottom incisors aligned along their edges. With the invention of the fork around 250 years ago, our ...
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2answers
306 views

What did the Greeks and Romans believe about language relationships?

The ancient Greeks and Romans had no concept of historical linguistics or of the Indo-European language family. However, it would have been noticeable to anyone who spoke even a little of both Greek ...
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2answers
354 views

Are Old French and French mutually intelligible?

In Les visiteurs (The Visitors), two Frenchman from 1123 are transported to 1993. In the movie, the visitors from 1123 can understand the speech of the modern French people in 1993, and vice versa, ...
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3answers
1k views

Why are many ancient languages so complicated compared to many modern languages?

Many ancient languages have a structure that is more complex than that of the "respective" modern languages. Modern languages like English have simpler structure, without case, gender or declination, ...